Consumers 101 Personal Finance Series
The start of a new college semester is a busy and exciting time. As you prepare to begin new classes, it’s important to consider how you’ll manage your finances while you’re in school. Follow these tips to keep your finances in order and avoid any unnecessary additional stress.
Set a Budget
Whether you receive a stipend from financial aid, are working part-time, or get financial help from your parents, it’s important to set a monthly budget to stay on track with your finances. You should budget for mandatory expenses like room and board or rent, utilities, and groceries, but you should also consider how much you can afford to spend on dining out and entertainment. Sticking to a budget will help you stay organized and help ensure that you don’t spend above your means.
Start a Savings Account
If you work during school, make it a goal to save ten percent or more of your income and put it into a savings account. Even if it seems like a small amount, savings will help when it comes time to graduate and find an apartment or begin to pay off student loans. It’s also helpful to have some money saved up in case of an emergency.
Pay Off Loan Interest During School
Many students take out both federal and private loans in order to fund their education. If you have student loans, you likely already know that you’re not required to pay them off until after you graduate, and there is typically a six month grace period following your graduation as well.
However, it’s a good idea to pay off the interest that accrues on your loans while you’re still in school if you have the means to do so. Some of your loans may be subsidized, meaning they won’t accrue interest while you’re still in school, but unsubsidized loans begin to accrue interest from the date that they are issued. Not paying this interest means you’ll eventually have to pay interest on the interest that you didn’t pay previously.
Build Your Credit
It’s important to keep in mind that your credit history will begin to develop right away. Certain bills are included on your credit report, so it’s critical to pay them in full and on time to avoid negative marks on your credit. Student loans will also appear on your credit report and will help you establish positive history as you make payments on time.
In order to secure new lines of credit in the future, a lender will pull your report to determine your creditworthiness. It is possible to get denied for credit if you lack sufficient credit history, so it’s helpful to try to build credit while you’re still in school.
The Credit Card Act of 2009 placed restrictions on individuals under the age of 21 getting a credit card without a cosigner, but secure credit cards are still a good option. A secure credit card requires an initial deposit. This deposit then acts as your available amount of credit. You can also build credit as an authorized user on a parent’s credit card.
Check Your Credit Report Regularly
You can get a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus - TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax - every twelve months. Checking your own credit report does not reflect negatively on your credit. You may choose to request a copy from one bureau at a time so that you can check your report several times throughout the year.
Always review your report for errors and inaccurate information. Incorrect listings can have a negative impact on your credit if they aren’t addressed. Dispute any incorrect information with the bureau and with the creditor and provide any documentation that supports your claim.
Successfully managing your finances and building healthy credit requires consistency and time. With these tips you’ll be well on your way to good credit.